The huge, record breaking ratings success of AMC’s TV series adaption of the popular comic The Walking Dead has cemented zombies as the monsters that even non-genre fans are talking about right now. And as with every hot trend, Hollywood studios are acting quickly to try and strike while the iron is hot. Many studios have a zombie film wither in production or development and those that don’t have their fare share of spec scripts that are currently circulating to pick from. Here’s a rundown of the ones we know about so far in order from those coming to a theater near you soon to ones that are still hoping to get a greenlight.
John Dies At The End – If you’ve only seen the trailer for this adaption of David Wong’s novel, then you can be forgiven for not knowing that the story has zombies as part of a other-dimensional invasion of Earth. Sure the book’s title is probably the biggest spoiler since Penn & Teller Get Killed, but it has a fervent fan base and director Don Coscarelli has already shown he can do straight up horror with Phantasm and mix chills and laughs as he did in Bubba HoTep.
World War Z – Based on Max brook’s bestselling novel, this feature is currently in production in Scotland with Brad Pitt in the lead and is without a doubt the highest profile zombie project currently out there. The original adaption was written by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski and was highly praised by many who read it for its deft handling of the book’s multiple eyewitness narrative. However, the screenplay has since been worked on by Matthew Michael Carnahan after director Marc Forster signed on to the project and indications are that it has been simplified down from its original structure of a report about a zombie uprising being compiled after the fact to a more conventional, in the moment, linear storyline. The film is currently scheduled for a December 21, 2012 release
Resident Evil: Retribution – There was no doubt that Milla Jovovich would be back for a fifth turn as zombie hunter Alice, especially with her husband Paul W.S. Anderson back behind the camera for his third time as director. (He has worked on the screenplay for all five installments.) The same almost couldn’t be said for Sienna Guillory, who at one point was rumored to have been replaced in her Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Afterlife flashback role of Jill Valentine, though it has been recently reported that she is back on the film. Other franchise cast members returning include Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Salmon from the first and Oded Fehr from the second and third installments. Retribution is currently in production and will hit theaters in 3D next September.
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies – Although Seth Grahme-Smith’s novel was the springboard for the recent wave of stories that mashed up various monsters with classic literature, Lionsgate has been having a difficult time getting the film version into production. David O. Russell was originally set to direct this tale of Jane Austen’s heroine Elizabeth Bennet as a martial-arts proficient zombie fighter, but left the project over a budget disagreement. Craig Gillespie was brought in to replace Russell but has not been able to find a lead for the film with Blake Lively being the most recent actress to pass.
Zombieland 2 – Although it only pulled about $102 million in combined domestic and international box office, the comedy Zombieland only cost less than a quarter of that to make. Paired with the fact that its popularity has increased thanks to home video, a sequel seemed like a sure thing. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wenick originally conceived the project as a television series, so they had a backlog of potential story ideas ready and as of last fall they had reportedly already completed a first draft of a screenplay. More recently, though, they have entered into negotiations to revive their television series iteration of the story. If that were to happen though, producer Gavin Polone, states that this would kill any chances for a theatrical sequel.
28 Months Later – Director Danny Boyle was careful not to actually use the word “zombie” in his 2002 film about the accidental release of a bio-engineered virus that turns people into mindless raging beasts, but it’s hard not to view them as such. Boyle’s film was a surprise hit that spawned the nearly as successful sequel 28 Weeks Later, on which he served as producer. For a while it looked as if another sequel would be in the offering with Boyle stating in 2007 that he had a story idea for the third film. Unfortunately, it looks like the 2009 collapse of the boutique studio that released the 28 Days Later, Fox Atomic, may have hindered any possible threequel. Just last year producer Alex Garland stated in an interview that he doubted a third film was in the offing anytime soon – “When we made 28 Days Later, the rights were frozen between a group of people who are no longer talking to each other. And so, the film is never going to happen unless those people start talking to each other again. There is no script as far as I’m aware.”
Warm Bodies – A feature of many of the zombie projects has been finding some sort of unique twist on the material. Director Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies, an adaption of Isaac Marion’s novel, offers one of the more interesting one. It involves a zombie known simply as R who has regained his self-awareness and seems to be slowly regaining his humanity. When he falls in love with a girl he finds himself in the position of protecting her from the other zombies who have yet to regain their sentience. What’s interesting about this is that the description implies that the story takes the idea of zombieism being caused by a disease and questions what would happen when the disease runs its course. Nicholas Hoult has been cast to play R, with Teresa Palmer as the love interest and Rob Corddray as M, one of the first zombies who become self-aware like R does.
Paul Is Undead – Another of the more intriguing twists on the zombie genre looks to be this film based on Alan Goldsher’s book Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion, which retells the story of the Beatles as if three of the Fab Four were zombies – Ringo is a ninja. The book was optioned last May for a film adaptation by Double Feature producers Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg (Pulp Fiction, Erin Brockovitch). Goldshar told MTV Movies Blog, “I envision it as a very high-budget, zombified Behind the Music,” though there has been no real news on the project since then.
Maggie – Another spec currently making the rounds is John Scott III’s story of a sixteen-year-old girl’s six week transformation into a zombie. Reportedly the script centers more on the girl and her relationship with her father as the virus that is causing her transformation continues to grow. With visual effects wizard Henry Hobson attached to direct, Timur Bekmambetov came close to acquiring the film to produce but negotiations fell apart at the last minute. Still, the projected budget for the film is a mere $5 million dollars, so I see it as being an attractive project for any studio.
Cooties – From Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell comes this comic take of a zombie outbreak in an elementary school. The twist is that the only ones who become zombies are those who haven’t been through puberty yet, leaving a group of teachers to defend themselves from a group of shambling undead eight and nine-year-olds. It’s uncertain if this will be a project that Whannell will work on with his Saw collaborator James Wan. No studio has expressed interest in the project, but since Whannell has some serious cred in horror circles I don’t doubt that he’ll be fielding some possible offers soon enough.
Kitchen Sink – One of three zombie scripts from last year’s Black List. This one starts off in the midst of a zombie outbreak only to turn into an alien invasion story by the script’s third page. The hero, a high school student named Dag, finds himself teaming up with a zombie and a goth girl who has been turned into a vampire for survival. Did I forget to mention that there are also vampires in this script? It isn’t called Kitchen Sink for nothing. Oren Uziel’s script is rather loaded with a lot of crazy stuff and if it gets made I don’t think anyone would accuse it of lacking ideas. Jonah Hill is attached to direct.
Boy Scouts Vs Zombies – The Boy Scout motto may be “Be Prepared,” but I don’t think the organization’s founder Lord Baden Powel had zombies in mind. Nevertheless, a troop of scouts on a camping trip find themselves caught in the middle of a zombie outbreak and there are no merit badges to show them how to survive. Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuki (College Road Trip) are the writers behind this comedy, the second of three of the zombie scripts on last year’s Black List. Paramount picked up the spec script in September 2010 with You Again director Andy Fickman attached to direct.
Zombie Baby – The third zombie Black List script. The setting for this zombie comedy is a rather unique one. It is after the zombie uprising and life has pretty much returned to normal with the exception that people now walk around armed for the contingency of a stray zombie shambling down the street. The story centers on a young couple who discover a zombie baby in their home after dispatching its zombie mother. But before they can rid themselves of the zombie baby people begin to think that the undead tyke is their real live baby. Complications arise out of the facts that the man is a low-level functionary in the new government beauracracy that has sprung up around zombie control and that his brother is the country’s most famous and successful zombie hunter. In a nice tip of the hat to George Romero, the script’s third act takes place in Pittsburgh which has been enclosed behind a giant wall as it is the epicenter of the zombie plague outbreak.
Burying The Ex – Nerdy Zak finally lands what he believes is a terrific girlfriend in Evelyn. Unfortunately, as their relationship grows, he discovers that she is growing more controlling and he finally decides that they have to break up. But rather have that painfully awkward conversation, Zak believes he has lucked out when Evelyn is hit by a bus and killed while on her way to the dinner date where he was going to dump her. Moving on Zak strikes up a new relationship with Olivia who actually turns out to be everything that he had mistakenly thought Evelyn was. Things are going great until one night there is a knock at the door and Zak opens it to find- Evelyn! It turns out that when they first got together, they pledged to be together forever. Unfortunately, they had made that pledge next to a possessed voodoo doll and Evelyn isn’t about to let being dead be an excuse for Zak not to still be with her. Gremlins director Joe Dante has been developing this horror-comedy for a while but it still has yet to win a greenlight. I’m not quite sure that this is technically a zombie picture or not. Evelyn has been raised from the grave, but she seems fully possessed of her senses and isn’t being driven by a need to eat Zak’s, or anyone else’s for that matter, brain. But she is back from the dead to cause havoc for the living so I guess that on some level counts.
Zombie Logic (Fast Vs Slow) – This new spec script from Grant Sullivan just started making the rounds at the end of May. Outside of the fact that it’s a comedy, there’s nothing really known about the script yet.